…So at the end of a dark hall behind a door with skull and crossbones was this girl named A that would soon be my friend. It was 1988 and her room walls were covered with pictures of boys with make-up and long hair. No, not Boy George, but rather Guns N’ Roses, KISS, and Iron Maiden. A’s struggle for recognition, repertoire, and rebellion was well underway. For years she toggled between raising hell and heaven’s gate. At times A scared me, but even if she was having one of those ”pride slayer” days she still would take a moment to correct my grammatical errors in the notes we passed. Indeed it was her passionate pragmatism that always bore through. Even if she was utterly upset with the world, she would push herself to devise a plan to deal with whatever might come her way and could readily convey her ideas and find people to help. A was never one to put on airs or make anyone feel less than her. When you were with A, you were her intimate equal.
A has been the inspiration of several of my poems including, Of the Things a Proper Lady Should Carry With Her, and The Superior Nonchalantist. Her eccentricities could always spark a good intrigue. Simply going through her purse was at least a book worth of ideas. When you sat down to talk, there were one of three guaranteed phrases that she would start with: “By the way”, “That reminds me” or “I have an idea”. It was easy to talk to her since she always tried to relate to you wherever you were.
A joined a band called Dave and Friends in the early 90s. Here she polished her vocal and guitar skills and literally played until her fingers bled. Before long, A was forming her own band and asking me what I thought about the name “1/2 Mad Poet”. Soon after, it seemed they were going on tour along with playing regularly at clubs in our home town of Wichita, Ks. In 1998, they played in Kansas City for the Lilith Fair. A bumped into some major celebrities but never got lost in the fog of fame. 1/2 Mad Poet went on to produce the album Ain’t I a Woman? of which “G Funk” and “Wish It Was Morning” are my favorite songs. Later they released Pictures and A released a CD of her own 2AM with Kenton Franklin. She has gone on to join other bands including Matthew Morgan and The Lost Brigade, The Lost Brigade, and now The Radicles.
A has always worked hard and understood the obstacles that separate many from success. While I know in some ways she feels she has yet to reach it, I know that in many ways she’s already there. Being famous is interesting indeed, but what is elusive to many is being a true friend, something A’s always been. Counting crows at land fills, collecting rocks in the Flint Hills, and eating blueberry pancakes in fields at midnight are the evidence of an inspired, committed, detailed, unique, daring, trusting connection.
A continues to play in little coffee shops, art galleries and at special events in many locations. The Radicles play at clubs, festivals, parties, and benefits. If you get a chance it would be well worth your while to meet her someday. I know in my heart that whatever our future holds her warm smile will be there to continue the adventure!
J grew up an intellectual dreamer in Kansas. An only child with a vivid imagination and a quick mind, he turned half of his parent’s backyard into a garden as a retreat for writing poetry and philosophical debate. Besides wildflowers, he grew revolutionary populist ideals about respecting all life, working to make a living, and the importance of cultivating creativity.
His curiosity about life has led him to several states of place and mind – the University of Ohio to major in demographics, Kansas City and Dallas to work for the census bureau, through roommates and grand crushes, deep loves, and passionate political views. When he was 26, he ran for KS State Senate as a Democrat with Populist underpinnings. His slogan was “For the Little People” and included such innovative ideas as having prisoners sort recyclables to help improve the environment and to give them an honest day’s work. He was running against a well-funded incumbent but refused to accept more than $10 per person for individual donations and did not accept money from PACs – he received 40% of the popular vote.
Defying all stereotypes, J is a true original; an innovative thinker who has the audacity to live by his personal convictions and is adorably quirky to his friends. Anyone who has ever worked with J is sure to have gained at least one nickname and been an unsuspecting party in an impromptu game of “Duck, Duck, Goose”. He is a one of those rare people who writes letters – often on the back of paperwork reflecting his current interests or activities – to save paper and give the reader an insight into what he is working on. These letters may be on the back of a map of a fairground, weather forecasts, discussion questions from gay or Catholic groups, or even an expired KS State Board of Education license, but they are all sure to include the current weather forecast, complete with an illustration such as those seen on weather newscasts.
J is a sensitive soul – writer of profound verse rich in symbolism. He is an avid environmentalist and a frugal spirit able to sleep on mattresses in un-air-conditioned attics and grow vegetables on balconies. He is a wise advisor, courageous in speaking his convictions and insightful into character. He is honest and romantic, a hard worker, a kind man, a devoted patron of the color yellow. J wants his friends to succeed, his lovers to prosper, his family to smile. I am proud to call J my friend.